France is not just about its world-famous cities and elegant wine regions. Its rich tapestry is also complemented by the incredible diversity of natural landscapes found in its national parks.
There are 11 designated national parks located throughout France. Each park is a treasure trove of nature’s marvels and is steeped in French history and culture. Of those, we’ll explore the top 8 national parks that everyone must visit and explore.
If you’re a lover of nature, hiking, and breathtaking vistas, you’ve come to the right place. So, put on your hiking boots, grab a map, and get ready to embark on a journey through 8 of the best national parks in France.
Note: If you’re planning a trip to one of these parks in the near future, be aware that the France ETIAS Visa Waiver will be mandatory for visa-exempt foreigners from 2024.
Armorique Natural Regional Park
Nestled in Brittany in Northern France, Armorique offers an eclectic blend of maritime, cultural, and pastoral landscapes. From the ancient, rugged Arrée Mountains to the stunning coastal lines of the Crozon peninsula, every turn provides a visual feast.
But his park isn’t just about landscapes; it’s also steeped in Breton culture. Small, picturesque towns dot the region, making it perfect for adventurers and culture seekers.
Calanques National Park
Located between Marseille and Cassis, Calanques National Park boasts a unique coastal landscape of rocky inlets and azure coves. The contrast of the dramatic white limestone cliffs against the deep turquoise waters of the Mediterranean creates a stunning visual spectacle.
Accessible by land and sea, you can hike the rugged trails to discover secluded beaches or embark on a boat trip to appreciate the water’s beauty fully. Beyond its landscapes, Calanques is also a biodiversity hotspot.
From the Peregrine falcon to the rare underwater Posidonia meadows, nature thrives in this sun-kissed paradise. For a mix of Mediterranean charm and rugged beauty, Calanques National Park is the perfect destination.
Cévennes National Park
The rugged Cévennes National Park is a UNESCO biosphere reserve situated in the south of France near Montpellier. Its maze of deep valleys, winding rivers, and towering mountain peaks makes it a paradise for hikers and nature lovers.
The park’s diverse landscape supports a variety of wildlife, from birds like harriers and kestrels to the unique Przewalski horse breed. Ancient stone villages, often described as the soul of the region, also provide a glimpse into French history.
Ecrins National Park
In the heart of the French Alps, south of Grenoble, lies Ecrins National Park, a mesmerizing tapestry of glaciers, valleys, and towering peaks. With mountains that rise up to 4,000 meters, it’s a mountaineer’s dream.
For those keen on flora and fauna, Ecrins also doesn’t disappoint. From the delicate Alpine pasque flower to the majestic golden eagle, biodiversity thrives in this high-altitude wonderland.
Like the iconic GR54, numerous trails snake through its landscapes, offering hikers unparalleled vistas at every turn. Ecrins National Park is a must-visit whether you’re a seasoned climber aiming for the peak of Barre des Écrins or a nature lover wanting to bask in Alpine beauty.
Le Perche Natural Regional Park
A haven of tranquility, Le Perche is located in Normandy in the north-west of France, close to Paris. Characterized by its gently rolling hills, forests, and traditional farmland, it offers a delightfully rustic setting.
The park is famed for its Percheron horses and apple orchards, making it an essential visit for equestrian lovers and cider aficionados. What’s more, exploring its many old manors and traditional farms will transport you to a bygone era.
Parc National des Pyrénées
Spanning the border between France and Spain, the Pyrénées National Park showcases some of Europe’s most spectacular mountain landscapes. Whether you’re basking in the splendor of the Cirque de Gavarnie or hiking to the peak of Vignemale, the beauty of this park is undeniable.
Beyond its landscapes, it’s home to a rich variety of flora and fauna, including the brown bear and the bearded vulture. Winter or summer, it remains a must-visit.
Mercantour National Park
Only an hour’s drive from the French Riviera, Mercantour is where the mountains meet the Mediterranean. From its pristine Alpine lakes to the Valley of Wonders with its prehistoric engravings, the park is teeming with surprises.
Mercantour’s biodiversity is awe-inspiring; marmots, ibexes, and even wolves can be spotted here. Adventure seekers can indulge in snow sports in winter or embark on the park’s numerous hiking trails during summer.
Vanoise National Park
Vanoise, France’s first national park, sits in the heart of the Alps and offers an unrivaled alpine experience. With over 500 km of marked trails, it caters to both the casual stroller and the seasoned mountaineer.
Its high-altitude terrain nurtures a myriad of flora and fauna, like edelweiss flowers and chamois. The park, which borders Italian Gran Paradiso National Park, also exemplifies nature conservation across borders.